The Chief Justice of Nigeria Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen has charged the newly elevated justices of the Court of Appeal to imbibe the culture of ensuring that Counsel appearing before them are well dressed at all time. He noted that this is what will check impunity.
The CJN was speaking during the swearing in of the 12 newly appointed Justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday, June 22, 2018.
Onnoghen, who advised them to always be guided by the constitution, their code of conduct and oath of office, warned justices and judges against yielding themselves and positions as tools for politicians.
The CJN also regretted the growing impunity in the executive arm, which he said was the reason some states were reluctant to comply with the constitutional provision for fiscal autonomy for the Judiciary.
He said: “You have to abide by the Constitution and the Code of Conduct, which actually is an extension of the oath of office that you have just taken.
“When you adhere to your oath of office, the code of conduct, the constitution and the application of the law to the task before you, and abide by judicial precedent, you will be home and dry. You will continue to sleep and snore.
“You don’t care whose ox is gored because the law is there to defend you. It is only when you apply short cut that you invite problem.
“Be focused and courageous because you are carrying the whole country on your head in terms of dispensation of justice.
“It is now time for politics. Things will be done to raise the temperature of this country within and outside of the political space.
“You have to be very, very careful not be used as a tool. You should be guided by judicial precedent, particularly in election and election related matters,” Onnoghen said.
He said the responsibility of a judge is to resolve disputes in accordance with the dictates of the law and to always apply the law in resolving cases brought before his court, without bothering who wins and who loses.
The CJN said the Bill recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari did not just provide financial autonomy to the Judiciary as being erroneously implied, saying that the provision has always been in the Constitution.
He said: “Section 121 of the Constitution has always been there. The only amendment is to bring in the state Houses of Assembly.
Onnoghen, who read the provision of the Constitution, said: “The provision for financial autonomy for the Judiciary has always been there in the constitution.
“What has always been the problem is the absence of courage, political will in the executive arm of government to implement and enforce this provision. That is all.
“Some state governments have done the right things, others are ready to do. Those who are yet to, we encourage them to enforce and implement this provision.
“This is because the independence of the Judiciary, particularly its financial independence, is the bedrock of democracy itself. We have gone too far to go back.
“We are under a democratic dispensation; a constitutional democracy for that matter. That is why I keep on saying that the rule of law is the solution to all of our problems.
“If we operate under the rule of law and are bound by the rule of law, then impunity, which is the bane of our democracy, will disappear.
“If not for impunity, did the Executive not know that the issue of financial autonomy for the Judiciary is a constitutional provision?”